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Supplementary Materials and Resources for Podcast 29 -


mySF Project: Background to the Taronga Focus class


This page supports Podcast 29 of the mySF Project blog and podcast series, found at
You can find the full script for Podcast 29 at



Description of the learning environment
Links to earlier studies
Notes related to the study of 'Taronga'
Discussion points for Post-Apocalyptic fictions
Visual text snippets and portions
Assessment task for the 'Taronga' study
Personal pedagogy
Resource List




Description of the learning environment

Sitting in a sort of amphitheatre plan facing generally towards an Promethean Interactive WhiteBoard (IWB), twenty-four students in English, Year 8 are accommodated in a dense brick classroom with yellowish stucco behind posters and notice boards. The classroom looks down from the second floor over some tall trees outside the front of the school and through these to a large oval with bordering gum trees.


In summer the overhead fan rotates with a slight squeak and the tattered venetian blinds must be used to blockout the intense sun so that the IWB can be used for interactives, presentations and DVD presentations.


This is a mixed ability English class of males and females of many cultures but the socioeconomics of the area mean many students are fine readers and writers while less than a handful are struggling. Year 8 in Australia relates to students of about thirteen years of age.


The class has a teacher desk with a computer attached to the internet and the school LAN, as well as a DVD player. Stereo speakers are attached high to the IWB wall. Students seem to enjoy and are well acquainted with presenting their own materials using PowerPoint or some other application through the IWB. They are also used to brainstorming using Inspiration software, presenting from the internet or their thumb-drives and accessing a secure Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) to pick up notes, assessment tasks and links for research.


Also assumed for this task was a classroom set of Active Expression Learner Response Systems or 'clickers' or remote voting handhelds to accompany the IWB so that students could interact with the focus class by voting responses to questions.


This facet of the focus class is not documented in this website but the main questions during the video segments in the class relate to the use of the clickers for student feedback, with further refining of the focus class based on the responses.



Links to earlier studies

The study of Taronga (Kelleher, 1986) was undertaken in the last part of the academic year, immediately following units in Visual Literacy and then a poetry research task. Most importantly, the students had looked in some detail at Tomorrow, When the War Began (Marsden, 1993) in the first part of the same year. For that novel study students were asked to respond creatively, choosing between a variety of response modes. The Marsden novel was set in a contemporary Australia and, like Taronga (Kelleher, 1986), looked at young people battling against great odds in a hostile environment. The Marsden novel was not discussed as Science Fiction (SF) but instead looked at the roles of the individual characters and the group, preparatory to a study of heroism in Tolkein's The Hobbit in the last part of Semester 1.

The study of Taronga (Kelleher, 1986) was an opportunity to bring a sort of circularity to the year of study, beginning and ending in portrayals of the Australian bush while both constraining the study of Taronga into the SF genre and requiring a creative writing response and a Rationale (see the Assessment task, below), in line with different required outcomes for the unit.


Chapter reports and pre-scaffolding

The novel Taronga (Kelleher, 1986) was given to the students at the end of Term 3. Through two weeks at the beginning of Term 4 (while the usual teacher was away on leave overseas) the students undertook chapter reports and were also asked to undertake some creative writing on the idea of surviving a terrible catastrophe.

The relief teacher reported that students undertook the task of short notes on a catastrophe in their own city, then on their survival with a group of friends in and around their city, taking refuge in bushland and living from the land, with links directly back to Marsden's Tomorrow, When the War Began (Marsden, 1993).



Notes relating to Post-Apocalyptic fictions

On returning to the class this writer looked back on the work required and then related their disaster scenario writings to a more general study of Post-Apocalyptic fiction as a sub-genre within SF.


These notes were derived, in part, from the research seen in the discussion of I am Legend (Matheson, 1954) with its various incarnations and rescissions, in the mySF Project Podcast 22.  Many of the secondary sources were cut out from the notes with more emphasis given to the purposes of Post-Apocalyptic writings, to suit their own assessment item (see the assessment section, below).

Image of the Text and Image property for studentsThe notes from the VLE were introduced as a Word document through the IWB with just a few paragraphs added each class. This meant that the one hour lesson usually contained about a third of notes and discussions, while the other two thirds were used for tidying up missed assessment, visual snippets (see below), looking at the novel Taronga (Kelleher, 1986) itself and time for writing and sharing ideas for their own creative response.


The notes were shown in a size 18 Arial font and students were asked to write these down, even though the Word file itself was updated to the VLE where students could find it in whole. The notes from the VLE can be found in the link, here.


Discussion points for Post-Apocalyptic fictions

To support the study of Taronga (Kelleher, 1986) the students were able to access a small text and image property on their VLE that included two images and some web links to various sources. This property was designed as a stating point for students and it was available from the end of Term 3. This text and image property can be seen, to the right, above.

One of the most important parts was considered to be varying descriptions of the Post-Apocalyptic sub-genre of SF and these were also loaded to the VLE. A copy of these can be accessed, here, on the definitions page.



Visual text portions and snippets


As noted, above, writing about the sub-genre and reading from the novel with discussions was a major part of the book study but to make the concentration on the varying forms of Post-Apocalyptic texts more exciting, a number of small segments from DVDs were also used.


In the students' academic guidelines DVD narratives with a rating over M in the Australian system of classification could not be shown without express and signed permission from the students' parents. However, portions of M rated videos could be shown, to illustrate certain points.


The visual texts to be used in the focus class were not included in the snippets but instead several DVD beginnings or other portions were used. These were judged to be suitable to the age range for the particular study, even though some were classified at M rating.


Films used in this section include:

Guest, V. (Director). (1961). The Day the Earth Caught Fire. Written by Guest and Mankowitz.
Costner, K. (Director). (1997). The Postman. Written by Brin and Roth.
Reynolds, K. (Director). (1995). Waterworld. Written by Twohy and Rader.
Murphy, G. (Director) (1985). The Quiet Earth. Written by Baer and Harrison.
Turtletaub, J. (Director). (2007). Jericho. 'The First Seventeen Hours'. Pilot for Season 1. Written by Steinberg and Schaer.
Kramer, S. (Director). (1959). On the Beach. Written by Paxton and Neville Shute, and
Jones, LQ (Director). (1975). A Boy and his Dog. Written by Jones and Harlan Ellison.



Assessment task for the 'Taronga' study


There was a major assessment task related to the study of Taronga (Kelleher, 1986), as noted above. This was the major task for the term and constituted 20% of the semester total.


The task was discussed and negotiated with the class and relates to the unit outlines for the class as well as the term planner. The task was posted to the school VLE that also tracked submission of the task, which could be submitted online through the VLE.


The focus class took place one week after the major task was due, in Week 16, with participation in the focus class counting towards general participation in the class.


The major task follows:

Semester 2, 2009

English, Major Essay, worth 20%, due Wk 15

Background to the task:

This task relates to the study of the novel Taronga by Victor Kelleher.

Students are asked to respond in the form of a short story according to the guidelines, as noted below, as part of the Year 8 attention given to formal writing for a variety of audiences and purposes, compliant with curriculum documents for this cohort.

Details of the task:

Students are to write a short story in response to Victor Kelleher's novel Taronga. The class has looked at Post-Apocalyptic texts within the Fantasy and Science Fiction genres and has studied ideas found in many of these texts, including Taronga. A Text and Image property is found on the class portal with links to articles, essays and definitions to support them in their thinking about this creative response task.

Students are asked to write a short story set in a Post-Apocalyptic Australia of the near or far future. They are also asked to write a formal Rationale linking their short story to the text Taronga, including a Resource List of their readings for this assignment.

This is a formal assignment in two parts: the short story and the Rationale with the Resource List. Both documents should follow the guidelines as seen, below.  

Details of the Creative Response and Rationale task: 

Students are to submit a polished and final draft of a short story set in a near or far future Australia, after an Apocalyptic disaster or situation as discussed through various texts including Victor Kelleher's Taronga

The short story does not have a definite word length but a rough guide of a minimum length might be two and half pages

The short story should have a small number of characters, or even just one character, in a Post-Apocalyptic situation

The short story should explore some of the themes of this sub-genre of SF as discussed in class and through notes on the class portal

The short story should include dialogue, even if it is internal dialogue, and it should be free of errors in expression and formatting

The short story must be accompanied by a Rationale: a document that describes in formal English the relationship between the student's short story and the study of Post-Apocalyptic fiction through Taronga

The Rationale should be at least half a page in length and should be written formally in paragraphs, including citations for all texts used for the short story, such as the novel

The Rationale should make direct comparisons between the creative short story and the texts studied, with their themes

A Resource List of texts used should follow the Rationale for the short story

It is strongly advised that students should bring earlier drafts of both their short stories and their Rationales to the teacher prior to the final deadline at the end of Week 15.

Assessment of the task:

Assessment of the task uses the Eisner Connoisseurship Model based on the following guidelines:

  1. Abides by the guidlines for the task and submitted either through the myclasses portal or by hand by the due date  - 20%

  2. A clear, logical argument is presented in the Rationale explaining the student response to the chosen texts and their themes - 40%

  3. The text/s is/are used to support claims made for each point in the Rationale - 20%

  4. The short story and Rationale is in a polished, final draft form, free of spelling errors and other errors of expression - 20%

Good luck!



Personal pedagogy


The focus class related to the study of Post-Apocalyptic texts and Taronga (Kelleher, 1986). For this focus class practices and pedagogies of the Quality Teaching Framework (NSWDET, 2006 & NSWDET, 2006a) were used but according to this model several levels of pedagogies were encouraged.


The personal pedagogy used for the design of this section of study relates most closely to the writings of Carl Bereiter for the

Computer-Supported Intentional Learning Environments (CSILE) and his wonderful work Education and Mind in the Knowledge Age (Bereiter, 2002).


The use of the modified Constructivist framework derives firstly from Jonassen (2000) and for concept mapping from Jonassen and Marra (1998).


The Quality Teaching Framework (QTF) (NSWDET, 2006 & NSWDET, 2006a) is not incompatible with these personal pedagogies though it must be noted that the QTF is not linked overtly to a blended learning (Felicia, nd) environment and has weaknesses in its approach to knowledge and understanding, as seen in the focus class materials.



Resource list


Bereiter, C.  (2002). Education and Mind in the Knowledge Age, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Mahwah, NJ.

Bereiter, C. (2003). 'Bring classrooms into the knowledge age'. Lecture presented at the Conference on Reform Initiatives in Teaching and Learning, University of Macau, 28 November 2003. Retrieved 30 June, 2005 from

Bereiter, C. & Scardamalia, M. (Unpublished). 'Technology and Literacies: from Print Literacy to Dialogic Literacy'. Draft of a Chapter to appear in Literacies and Learning, Editor: Alister Cumming. Retrieved 16 August, 2006, from 

Felicia, D.    (n.d.). 'Blended Learning: Choosing the Right Blend'. Encyclopaedia of Educational Technology. Retrieved 27 February, 2005 from

Jonassen, D. (2000). 'Semantic Networks (Concept Maps) as Mindtools'. Chapter Four. Computers as Mindtools for Schools: Engaging Critical Thinking. Second Edition. Merrill: Ohio.

Jonassen D.H. and Marra R.M., (1998). 'Concept Mapping and Other Formalisms as Mindtools for Representing Knowledge', URL  Retrieved 5 August, 2004 from

Kelleher, V. (1986). Taronga.  Scoresby, Victoria: Penguin Group Australia. Paperback 9780140326314

Marsden, J. (1993) Tomorrow, When the War Began. Sydney, Australian: Pan Macmillan.

Matheson, R. (1954). I am Legend. New York: Walker and Company.

NSWDET (2006). A classroom practice guide: Quality teaching in ACT Schools. Copyright NSW Department of Education and Training. Canberra: Publishing Services for the ACT Department of Education and Training.

NSWDET (2006a). An assessment practice guide: Quality teaching in ACT Schools. Copyright NSW Department of Education and Training. Canberra: Publishing Services for the ACT Department of Education and Training.

Tolkein, JRR (1937). The Hobbit. London: Allen and Unwin.



Michael Sisley


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